Craig forced to leave after injuring left knee

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA, Times Staff Writer
Published November 25, 2007

TAMPA - Lightning forward Ryan Craig had to leave in the first period of Saturday's game against the Devils with a left knee injury and did not return.

Craig, who has battled injuries the past two seasons, missed 13 man games this season with back injuries that required a conditioning assignment at AHL Norfolk.

Heading into Saturday, ice time had decreased for Craig in the past three games. He played 3:10 against the Devils and left his fifth and final shift after 28 seconds, 17:09 into the first period.

Craig, who had one point and one assist in six games entering Saturday, was hampered by an ailing right knee last season. In the offseason, he lost 10 pounds to take weight off his knees and give himself another half step.

Craig was unavailable for comment after the game. He is scheduled to have an MRI exam today.

Coach John Tortorella had recently complimented the grit of Craig's third line, which included center Chris Gratton and forward Mathieu Darche.

The Lightning was without defenseman Filip Kuba, who missed the game with an abdominal injury and is day to day. Kuba played 28 minutes or more in two of the past three games.

ROAD TRIP OVER: Orlando resident Steve Williamson completed his "30 Games in 30 Days" trip Saturday, with the original Lightning fan and former season ticket holder finishing up the feat at the St. Pete Times Forum. Now that the trek, which began Oct. 26 and included games in all 30 cities, is over, Williamson said, he might suffer from more withdrawal than he has from jet lag.

"I think I'm going to miss it," he said. "I thought watching a hockey game every night would be physically draining and emotionally draining. It's been much more exciting than it has been draining."

During the trip, which spanned 30 arenas, Williams traveled an estimated 30,000 miles and spent $7,000. He ate 43 hot dogs (none Saturday as a guest of the Lightning). Home teams were 18-9-3 during his trip.

"I think when the final whistle blows, it will definitely be a numbing feeling," he said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Andreas Karlsson was a healthy scratch. ... Vinny Lecavalier's second-period goal was his ninth in his past 11 games and team-high 15th career goal against the Devils. ... Brad Richards (24:56) and Marty St. Louis (24:27) are first and second in average ice time among forwards. Lecavalier is sixth with 22:23. ... Defenseman Dan Jancevski, who played just 1:50 on Saturday, was reassigned to AHL Norfolk after the game. The team didn't make a corresponding move.